Football fans from one part of Germany's Ruhr district would, only half-jokingly, tout a bulwark of their very own as worthy of taking its place among that elevated company: the South Terrace, otherwise known as the Yellow Wall, at Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park.
With the club's swift rise to a position of pre-eminence both at home and abroad in recent years, word has been spreading with equal rapidity about the quality, and quantity, of their support. Outside of Germany, relatively few followers of the game would have been aware until recently that Dortmund are the best-supported team in Europe, and by some distance, ahead of Manchester United, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and, in fifth place, current European champions FC Bayern Munich.
BVB's local rivals FC Schalke 04 are next on that list. Indeed, with Hamburger SV also among the top ten and VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Mönchengladbach both just outside it, the Bundesliga can evidently boast unparalleled strength in depth as far as its current fan base is concerned.
Through thick and thin
Even prior to die Schwarz-Gelben's resurgence under Jürgen Klopp, when the football on offer was often far from spectacular, they were regularly pulling in an audience at the higher end of the 70-thousands. These days, Klopp's dynamic and successful young troops rarely play to anything much less than a capacity crowd on home turf. At the Signal Iduna Park, that adds up to an official head count of 80,645.
The South Terrace is the heart and soul of this massive stadium, which has undergone several phases of extensive renovation down the years. One of those phases, completed in 1999, left the South with an expanded capacity of 24,454, making it Europe's largest open-plan football terrace. Being in the midst of it is a unique experience, with, in the words of one fan, "every sensation intensified a thousand-fold." The crowd, as another put it, "becomes a single entity, encompassing the team itself."
Experiencing is believing
Asked to describe the South Terrace feeling, Dortmund devotees time and again will be heard to say it's difficult, if not impossible, to put precisely into words. Recurring phrases such as "magnetic attraction" and "sense of connection" lend it an almost mystical aura and there is unanimous agreement that it has to be experienced first-hand to be properly understood.
has done just that on many an occasion. Now playing a starring role for Dortmund and Germany, the 24-year-old attacking all-rounder was a South Terrace stalwart growing up and, after running out in front of it for the first time in BVB colours following his move from Mönchengladbach in 2012, he described the experience - early goal in a 2-1 victory over Bremen included - as "awesome. I got goosebumps just warming up, never mind after scoring."
Born again footballers
It's not just hometown heroes who are thus affected. The intense affinity between all the players and their "twelfth man" is plain. The South Terrace is the default destination for group celebrations after a goal and throughout every home game, the atmosphere generated there whips up the whole stadium, driving the team ceaselessly forward.
In his own inimitable style, Klopp himself has further added to the mythology of Borussia's home turf and its unrivalled Yellow Wall: "Every time you walk out onto the pitch it's like being born again, except with a lot more applause. You come out, and it just explodes."